NELSON: Breaking in a new airport


New buildings and new things are always fun.

Fun to own a new thing, fun to see a new thing.

Not always fun to operate a new thing however.

How long did it take you to figure out where all the buttons, levers and knobs were for your new car?

I’m still trying to figure out a new phone, three months into owning it.

New computers and appliances have learning curves. Heck, try building a new bookshelf...

Imagine a new airport.

My NFL work took me to New Orleans last weekend, and guess what — I flew into a brand new international airport.

I regularly get to New Orleans for games. I was last there in January for a playoff game, so I knew that they were getting a whole new setup. Not just an extra set of gates like Newark got, or Minneapolis added recently, but brand-spanking new from driving in to driving away.

Just like Indy did 10 years ago, they started out with a new piece of ground and started digging.

I knew it was coming. I didn’t know that it was just last Wednesday!

Yep, the brand new New Orleans International Airport was three days old when my plane landed Saturday afternoon.

It is huge. It is bright and shiny. There is lots of space.

There weren’t quite enough signs, and even the helpful help-desk folks weren’t quite sure where a person should go. You know how it works.

The good part is that everyone at an airport is either leaving or arriving, so keeping folks moving in the right direction is paramount, and the new airport is well laid out for that. They used the Indianapolis plan and have a gigantic lobby area before security where folks can congregate. They have huge areas for security, although that was totally messed up Sunday. I went down a path labeled TSA pre-screen, and got directed by a person to a line, where I was told to unload my computer and take my shoes off.

Wrong there — I paid and went through the work to not have to do this.

So I got out of that line and went into another, and this time it was right. Went right through and headed for my flight.

The one thing even brand new airports can’t do, though, is make the airlines fly on time. My flight to Dallas was 45 minutes late leaving, because the pilots got caught in game traffic coming from downtown. I’m glad I had a better driver — I was on time and I worked at the game!

The one thing the new airport folks didn’t put enough time and planning into was outside the terminal building.

Getting to where I needed to go to catch my Uber ride to the hotel Saturday was a real adventure. They have not dedicated enough space outside and don’t have enough curb space. That will take some time and more sidewalks.

The other big issue was returning a rental car Sunday. They are still using the same parking areas for the rental car companies, so that now means catching a bus to the old terminal, where it used to be a short walk to get a car. It also meant a bus ride back to the new terminal after dropping off a car, and they don’t have a good road system set up yet. Folks are going to miss flights, or have to plan for long delays for a while. The system is even so new my GPS system couldn’t find the old parking lot from the new terminal, and there was a serious shortage of signs on the roadways. That too, will need to be addressed.

But, I got in and got out, and with the huge upset in our game, it was an interesting weekend.

Now, to complain about the weather...

Yes, I didn’t know that autumn was going to be three days long. I would have planned those days differently.

There is plenty on the agenda. Doing all these Pacers has filled in a bunch of days, and there is always a high school game to get to.

This weekend I have two days in Greencastle. Friday is setup day for Saturday and the Monon Bell game. I’m working on the TV crew.

NFL duties are in Detroit this weekend, and the Bell game gets done too late for me to catch the last flight north, so it will be a drive Saturday night up there. We just found out Tuesday that next week’s game back in New Orleans got flexed, so now we are heading to Philly instead. Flights and travel changes happen as soon as I finish this column.

Always something. Al least it will warm up a little for the weekend.

Safe travels.

Jeff Nelson works in national television. His column appears each Thursday in the Journal Review.


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